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|Elisa Carrillo Cabrera|
|Carlo Cerri||Set Decoration/Design|
|Kristopher Millar||Costumes/Costume Designer|
|Bruno Moretti||Score Composer|
|Lois Swandale||Costumes/Costume Designer|
Posted October 1, 2010
The elements of the artist Caravaggio's tumultuous life, his artistic achievement, and historical perspective, are all reflected in the DVD of the Berlin State Ballet's DVD production of Caravaggio, choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti, with a new score by Bruno Moretti drawn from the early Baroque music of Claudio Monteverdi.
Michelangelo Merisi (1571-1610) was the innovative, famous, notorious Renaissance painter known as Caravaggio, taken from the Italian village in which his family lived. Though he lived only a brief life, art history points to Caravaggio as having a profound influence on the new Baroque style of art that exploded in the early 17th century after his death. This Italian master of "darkness and light," or chiaroscuro painting, frequently depicted vivid, real images of intense emotion, bathed in light against dark backdrops. Such elements are to be found reflected within Berlin State Ballet's production based on Caravaggio's life and art, but with intentional modern twists. Caravaggio's influential impact on the development of Western art was only rediscovered 300 years later, in the 20th century, and the ballet's creators wanted this rediscovery to be incorporated, and it is, perhaps too much. I approached the ballet with high expectations based on the facts: that it featured an important subject figure from Italian Renaissance art, musical material drawn from an important Italian composer, but within a one-decade shadow of the 20th century in which the artist was rediscovered. I expected an interpretive ballet that reflected Caravaggio's life and aesthetic, in modern language full of curiosity, implied dramatic threads, and stunning imagery. In Caravaggio's supporting elements, its score and creative designs, it delivered. Yet it fell short due to important flaws in the overarching unbalanced structure of the ballet, and rather melodramatic, uber-modern choreographic style.
Bruno Moretti's score admirably demonstrates the company's creative intent. The composer utilizes modern musical language and full orchestral scoring, frequently drawn from spare themes by Monteverdi, but interspersed with entirely new sounds. Caravaggio's creative designs are also major highlights, with Carlo Cerri's outstanding chiaroscuro lighting and Kristopher Millar and Lois Swandale's beautifully rendered, spare, shroud-like costumes that reflected Caravaggesque imagery with a fluid modernism. But even with such strong supporting elements to its credit, the overarching structure of the ballet demonstrated a lack of larger scenes for the strong Berlin corps de ballet, and far too many solos and pas de deux's. Also, Mr. Bigonzetti's choreography was far skewed with modern, taut, angular movement and rather melodramatic, if occasionally impressive, athletic prowess. There are a few gorgeous dances, especially in the first act of mostly small ensembles intended to interpret several of Caravaggio's most famous paintings, especially ones performed against dramatic, direct Monteverdi quotes in the score. However, the few full corps dances that are seen seem to lack the creativity and polish that went into the heavier principal sections. The historically strong corps of the Berlin State Ballet appears so infrequently that I felt they were truly relegated to backdrop. Overall, this DVD is worth seeing once to hear Mr. Moretti's interesting orchestrations, and the gorgeous production values. As for the dancing, it tends to fall dark.